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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 06:23 AM Thread Starter
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Help with overly protective pup

Hello everyone and thank you for all your suggestions.
I have owned dobermans for the last 30 years, I fell in love with the breed with my first doberman at 8 years old. I owned and fully trusted them forever and never had any concern even around my 33 week old preemies. Fast forward to now, my youngest twins are 12 years old and we rescued a fixed male last year at around 1 year old. Zeus is an amazing pup, now 2 years old he is my super-velcro dog. He is extremely self confident, follows commands very well, he is incredibly sweet with everyone in the household. That is where it stops...
as long as strangers stay at lest 20 feet away, he ignores them, within 10 feet the razor focused look takes place, any closer and his hair goes straight up and he not so gently growls and while remaining easily controllable he gets between the perceived threat and the family member. Within 5-5 feet he just attacks and at 90lbs and very muscular he caused serious injuries to two "expert trainers". Under no circumstances he allows anyone else other than my family/kids and adult kids in the house... not even my mother.
As my vet stated, he is doing his job exactly as his breed is designed to do, however it is challenging and heartbreaking for me to tie him or board him when guests visit. He literally destroyed several crates. He sleeps in the master bedroom on his bed, comes in the car with me with no issue. Is there anything I can do to make him more tolerant of guests?
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 08:00 AM
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Not much help here I’m afraid. I hope some of our trainers and more experienced folks will chime in. A doberman with the problems you've described is a danger to those around him and it can be tough to control.

And I disagree strongly with your vet. Dobermans should have an OFF switch. He should be able to “stand down” when you tell him to. No dog with the behavior you describe is acting as it is designed to do.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 09:52 AM Thread Starter
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Melbrod, thank you for your reply, I wanted to share a bit more about Zeus:

For rescue I mean, we adopted my in Austria after police dog training. It was not easy at all because they had concerns about his protective drive but after showing them for a whole day that he showed no aggressiveness towards us (wife and kids), he was on the plane back to the US.

Upon arriving home, he was very inquisitive about the home, he went everywhere and surprisingly, he knew how to open most doors (the knobs had to be replaced with solid ones and some now have child covers).

At the park he runs around quite a bit, fetches tennis balls (usually destroys them on the way back with them). Does not care to go towards other dogs and seems fine if other dogs go near him and briefly sniff him. If they try to entice play, he backs away, if they insist he gets in his pose and the dogs leave quickly. He does not bother other dog owners as long as they don't run towards us (family). At that point he drops everything and runs back. A very stern stop, sit and stay will stop him but he still barks and seems rather upset (hair up).

He can come to a restaurant as long as he sits next to me and nobody hovers over him/me or any family member (waiter included).

Walking him on the road is easy as he heels well and we usually break his focus should he dislike something/someone with a gentle tug on his leash or vest handle. Over the last year he learned to not get worked up with animals (squirrels etc) in the backyard.

Within the house, backyard or doggie park he knows that simply telling him "where's XYZ" means go look for that person, he immediately takes off looking for them and sits next to them barking back (not at them). It makes playing hide and seek easy with the kids.

At no time does he pull hard on the leash to go after anything and he does listen (while on the leash) to stand down but he does so with his hair up and making unhappy noises. He loves to play with us, we do our very best to curb the remaining and minimal mouthing (he is 2). If he accidentally mouths too hard (and by no means not breaking the skin), he immediately back off like if he is sorry and tries to lick the hand. He has never been aggressive to anyone in my family, contrary to that he is unusually affectionate.

He plays with a few toys but we pic those carefully as they don't last long, a maxi kong lasts about a day. He has a few toys made of hard plastic that lasted for weeks luckily. He has a small tire shaped one that he also learned how to throw. Backyard footbal is impossible as he will jump pretty high, intercept and puncture the ball immediately.

Overall, the biggest issue is that he will not allow strangers near us. He seems to overly easily perceive them as threats. Boarding works as follows, I walk in the place, tie him to the tie ring handle the paperwork walk out and the one trainer that knows him waits for me to leave to take him. If she walks over while I am next to him he will not allow her. When a friend of mine, K9 officer with his german sheppard came to visit, we all sat on the deck, Zeus was on a leash sitting next to me, my friend sat across the table from me and he was OK but his dog (not on leash) got the stare of death, Zeus assumed the stance and the other do went and sat away in a corner of the deck with his tail between his legs and looking rather sad. Zeus sat again and was OK but kept an eye on him making noises anytime the other dog started to move. In essence if I must have guests either he is not with us or I must have him on a 2ft leash.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 10:21 AM
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I am in agreement here with melbrod. A Doberman attacking people is a huge liability and it could easily maul someone on accident because they got too close, and then you'd have to end up putting your dog down and possibly have a huge lawsuit on your hands as it is clearly a danger to people. A well-rounded, probably bred and socialized Doberman should not be acting this way. It will be 'alert' when strangers are around, but, they should be able to read their owner's reaction to the situation and be able to snap out of it.

When someone comes over to our house, or approaches our house, Zuko is the first to let us know about it, but he will not, under any circumstance, attack. Say he's outside with us and someone pulls into the driveway. He doesn't know who it is yet so he'll stand on top of the stairs and bark and roof at them, (it can sound pretty mean) ears up, very alert. Once they get out of the car, it's either A) he recognizes you, which he'll then start wagging his tail, ears go down in submission and he'll find a ball or stick to bring them as a welcome gift. Or B) he doesn't know them, he'll remain on alert, will be aloof and will not let them touch him until either hubby or I welcome the visitor, and then he will approach and let stranger give him pets. But he will not lunge or growl or attack if they approach us. Though he isn't as confident as some other Dobes, his response to me is ideal. He can sound pretty mean, but he knows exactly when to stand down.

Sorry I am of no help here but I hope you find a solution to this soon! For safety's sake.

Jackie, Jake & Zuko


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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 11:46 AM
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I have to say that I agree with others that what you describe is NOT an appropriate temperament for a Doberman. A Doberman should be able to discern a threat from a non-threat, and your dog cannot. He perceives EVERYTHING as a threat. While obviously it's impossible to say without evaluating a dog in person, typically that is not the sign of a confident dog, but rather of an insecure dog. It's also an absolute risk and a HUGE liability - you are walking around with a dog that you *know* can and will bite. To be brutally honest, that's not a risk I'd be willing to take (I have had to make a call before with an unstable dog - it was heartbreaking and brutally hard to make that decision). Your dog is at the age that he is showing his adult temperament. If *I* were in your shoes, he wouldn't be in public unless he was wearing a basket muzzle, because I wouldn't be risking a bite to someone.

If it were me, I'd also consult a very skilled behaviorist, whether that's a board certified veterinary behaviorist or one that has a master's degree in animal behavior or something similar.


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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 04:40 PM
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@ CT

Having owned an overly aggressive dog (not a Doberman) in the past, I can only say that it IS possible to have a happy dog and a safe environment.

It is a lot of work. The dog must be under absolute control at all times. The assumption, at any given point in time is that at the very least, his reaction to his surroundings are unpredictable.

He should alway be leashed and even perhaps muzzled (basket type) when in public.

As I said... It is possible to maintain a household with an aggressive dog. It is a lot of work. I would never recommend it for the average dog owner.

My bonafides? Years ago I had a 5 yo Boxer who flipped one day. He attacked my Doberman and never looked back. I loved this boy and did not have the heart to euthanize him, even after I was severely bitten by him twice in his attempt to get at his "prey".

He was a really nice dog in his comfortable surrounding, but in the "real world" he was a nightmare. I kept him for years. It was quite arduous. Eventually, he became such a potential liability that I put him down.

Best of luck

John
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-15-2017, 04:55 PM
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I'll check in on this too and also don't think this dog has anything like a good (or acceptable) Doberman temperament. It's pretty hard to even imagine why a year old Doberman would be so determined to accept anyone other than his immediate family.

Other people have touched on some of the basic problems and I'll absolutely agree with the fact that appropriate temperament in a Dobe includes, along with a good bit of natural protectiveness, an off switch. In fact in temperament testing it's one of the things evaluators look specifically for.

The fact that he hackles (raises his hair on his shoulders and back when he thinks people are too close) is not a sign of a "strong" degree of protectiveness but quite the opposite. It is actually are fear reaction in most dogs and cats (and actually many mammals and birds. Behaviorists say they do this to make themselves look more intimidating. So read this for what it is and when you see that hair go up it's an indication that your dog is far beyond his threshhold level of comfort.

Since you didn't get him until he was a year you have no real idea how he was raised or what happened to him in that first year to cause a reaction like this.

I've seen dogs who behave much like your description of your dog who were not well socialized (or socialized at all) as puppies and often spent most of their young lives in a kennel situation--Dobes are not good candidates for this sort of life and often are kennel shy to an extreme.

I think you have a big liability in this dog--at best a really skilled behaviorist may be able to help you control his behavior but as it stands now he really isn't safe to have around strange people or other dogs--even though he has never shown any degree of agression toward you or your immediate family some dogs like him are just about like a bomb about to go off and are as likely to bite you as an approaching stranger who isn't listening to you telling them the dog is not friendly in an attempt to get away from.

You can turn some of these dogs around but sometimes it is behavior that gets worse rather than better over time.

I wish you the best of luck but be very careful with this dog.
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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-22-2017, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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So, my wife and I enrolled Zeus in a 3 week in kennel obedience program. I sadly dropped him off this past Saturday and truth to be told I miss him. I share most of the concerns voiced above and the primary goal of his training is the ability to switch him off.

So far on day 3 of training, the end of day report was that he is great with most of the commands but they are working on controlling him from protecting any of the handlers. No matter who is holding his leash he is protective even there.

I just wanted to restate that at no point has he ever been aggressive with any member of my family. Keeping my fingers crossed. Thank you all for your replies, observations and tips. Let's see where this goes now...
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-22-2017, 04:11 PM
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So, my wife and I enrolled Zeus in a 3 week in kennel obedience program. I sadly dropped him off this past Saturday and truth to be told I miss him. I share most of the concerns voiced above and the primary goal of his training is the ability to switch him off.

So far on day 3 of training, the end of day report was that he is great with most of the commands but they are working on controlling him from protecting any of the handlers. No matter who is holding his leash he is protective even there.

I just wanted to restate that at no point has he ever been aggressive with any member of my family. Keeping my fingers crossed. Thank you all for your replies, observations and tips. Let's see where this goes now...
This would really not have been what I would recommend for this dog. A "board and train" type of program where you don't know what methods the trainers are using (especially when you can't see what they are doing) is generally the last thing I'd recommend.

I really, really wish you had sought out a skilled behaviorist instead. I am very worried about this dog.


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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-22-2017, 04:26 PM Thread Starter
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We will be part of the training for the last week. I was under the impression that this was going to be the best option


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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-22-2017, 04:37 PM
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We will be part of the training for the last week. I was under the impression that this was going to be the best option
Board certified veterinary behaviorist in CT: Ellen M. Lindell, V.M.D. - Veterinary Behavior Consultations, P.C.- Veterinary Behavior

Behavior consultant: "Help for Dogs with Aggression" - Complete Canines LLC


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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 05-23-2017, 12:51 AM
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Would never leave my dog with any trainer the reason i say that is my 2nd Bouvier & I went to an obedience class the instructor wanted to use my dog for a demo dog. She gave my dog a correction a hard correction it took me forever to re-gain his trust. Never would do that again.
Leerburg.com at one time had escape proof crates on the expensive side if you are looking for a crate. Good Luck with your boy.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
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Well, he couldn't wait to come home. As if he wasn't my velcro pup before, now he is attached to my hip even when I need to use the bathroom, sits outside the shower but the newest thing is that if I don't give him attention he barks... a lot.
If I sit he feels the need to constantly rest a paw on my leg. I literally can't go anywhere without him attached to me. If I tell him to sit and stay, he does it, and does so right away but after 5 minutes or so, sit stay r down stay no longer works.

The training was a fail...


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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 03:32 PM
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Well, he couldn't wait to come home. As if he wasn't my velcro pup before, now he is attached to my hip even when I need to use the bathroom, sits outside the shower but the newest thing is that if I don't give him attention he barks... a lot.
If I sit he feels the need to constantly rest a paw on my leg. I literally can't go anywhere without him attached to me. If I tell him to sit and stay, he does it, and does so right away but after 5 minutes or so, sit stay r down stay no longer works.

The training was a fail...
I'm sorry to hear it. Board and train can be a huge disaster.

I will reiterate that I am extremely concerned for this dog. Please, PLEASE, if you want to continue working with him, consult a GOOD professional:

Ellen M. Lindell, V.M.D. - Veterinary Behavior Consultations, P.C.- Veterinary Behavior

"Help for Dogs with Aggression" - Complete Canines LLC


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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-15-2017, 04:47 PM
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There are some good Board & Train programs. I like Solid K9 Training in Rhode Island. Jeff Gellman [owner] has a website by the same name and one of the menu tabs is for a free 15-minute Skype. You could schedule this and speak to him and see what he has to say. I don't have personal knowledge of any behaviorists but what I've heard is that they are not effective, at least insofar as behavior modification. You do need someone knowledgeable about behavior modification, I would start with Jeff. Best of luck with your dog.
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post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-21-2017, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by kdanielsen View Post
There are some good Board & Train programs. I like Solid K9 Training in Rhode Island. Jeff Gellman [owner] has a website by the same name and one of the menu tabs is for a free 15-minute Skype. You could schedule this and speak to him and see what he has to say. I don't have personal knowledge of any behaviorists but what I've heard is that they are not effective, at least insofar as behavior modification. You do need someone knowledgeable about behavior modification, I would start with Jeff. Best of luck with your dog.
There are far more bad Board & Trains than good ones, which is why I rarely recommend them. And, you can see that the OP has already had a failure. Given that we've just seen massive news coverage of the board and train that sent out a dog who subsequently killed a 90 year old woman (and now we are seeing with the investigation that the board and train rarely trained the dogs, left them to sit in their crates for 23 hours a day, etc.), again, this is why I almost never recommend them to someone over the internet. I *especially* don't like them for dealing with the types of issues the OP has.

Additionally, saying you "don't have personal knowledge about behaviorists" but have heard they aren't effective so you assume they don't work... Good behaviorists ARE people that are knowledgeable about behavior modification and are effective at changing behavior. Whether that's a behaviorist (veterinary or otherwise) or a very good trainer is immaterial.


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post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-21-2017, 09:43 AM
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I live in this area. What I would recommend is either the veterinary behaviorist option (Tufts Vet School also may have one) or to contact DRU in New Hampshire as I have heard that they work with trainer that has had success with these type of cases. Ask them for a referral.
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Stories like this are the reason I am VERY cautious about board and train, by the way: Experts, former employees condemn operations at facility that housed killer dog | Southside Daily


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post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-21-2017, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MeadowCat View Post
There are far more bad Board & Trains than good ones, which is why I rarely recommend them. And, you can see that the OP has already had a failure. Given that we've just seen massive news coverage of the board and train that sent out a dog who subsequently killed a 90 year old woman (and now we are seeing with the investigation that the board and train rarely trained the dogs, left them to sit in their crates for 23 hours a day, etc.), again, this is why I almost never recommend them to someone over the internet. I *especially* don't like them for dealing with the types of issues the OP has.

Additionally, saying you "don't have personal knowledge about behaviorists" but have heard they aren't effective so you assume they don't work... Good behaviorists ARE people that are knowledgeable about behavior modification and are effective at changing behavior. Whether that's a behaviorist (veterinary or otherwise) or a very good trainer is immaterial.
I once took a group class from a trainer who also did board and train. In the middle of a Novice Competition Obedience class, she leash checked, yelled at, and then rolled and pinned her demo dog, who was a board and train dog. His offense? He got up from a down stay. If she was willing to do that in a public setting, I shudder to think of what she did behind closed door. Every dog I ever saw her compete with was flat and lifeless in the ring, doing things with no sign of enjoyment.


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